While Marc Stein reported on Thursday morning that Kyrie Irving is expected to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks, the All-Star guard is, according to Turner Sports' Chris Haynes, expected to meet with both the Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns in free agency. Teams are officially allowed to negotiate with free agents as of 6 p.m. ET on Friday.
This doesn't make a ton of sense. The Suns are not only without the cap space necessary to offer free agents anything more than a minimum contract, they are deep in the tax and ready to blow past the "second apron," which will further restrict their ability to upgrade the roster in the next few seasons. They gave up most of their future picks in order to get Kevin Durant in February, and they gave up everything else in order to get Bradley Beal earlier this month.
In theory, Irving could land in Phoenix through a sign-and-trade. In this scenario, however, Dallas would have to agree to send him there. Unless the Suns are going to trade Beal, Durant or Devin Booker -- all unlikely! -- they'd have to send the Mavericks a package built around Deandre Ayton.
Would the Mavericks be happy to turn Irving into, say, Ayton and Cameron Payne? Is it even rational for a team that already has Booker, Durant and Beal to go after another big-name scorer? What in the world is going on here?
It's worth noting that, while Stein reported that everybody expects Irving to re-sign, he added that it "remained difficult" to pinpoint how long and lucrative Dallas' offer would be. If Irving wants to get his full max, guaranteed, for as long as possible, then he might need leverage. It is in his interest to make it seem like he has options.
Irving's problem is that, while the Mavericks are incentivized to retain him, he is not a natural target for any of the teams that have cap space. One such team, the Houston Rockets, "could seek a meeting as well," according to Haynes, although it's unclear under what circumstances that could happen. According to Stein, the Rockets are expected to use their space to sign Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks.
Consider that if Phoenix were to acquire Irving -- or any player -- in a sign-and-trade, its blow-past-the-second-apron plan would be out of the window, at least for the 2023-24 season. Such a move would hard-cap the Suns at the first apron, which is $172 million ($7 million above the $165 million tax threshold).
Even if both parties are motivated, this prospective partnership is a long shot at best. Could Irving sign a minimum contract, simply because he's miffed at the Mavs' offer and/or he's determined to reunite with Durant? Could he tell Dallas he has no interest in playing anywhere but Phoenix and demand a sign-and-trade? I guess neither scenario is completely outside the realm of possibility, but, as unpredictable as Irving can be, both would qualify as shocking.